The kanji 言

Hey everyone!

I recently started studying kanji and I came across the kanji 言. From my Japanese class I only know it written with a small dash at the top but now I keep seeing it with a straight line at the top.

My question is: are those 2 different kanji?

Thanks for your answers :blush:

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It’s the same kanji, just different fonts. :slight_smile:

4 Likes言

This is not completely accurate. The one Jasii97 is seeing in his class is the written version. So, when practicing writing they should write it like they’ve seen in their class.

See this thread: Handwritten vs Typed Japanese Confusion

It’s still the case that they are different fonts. You’re right that the one with the small dash is used when handwriting though.

Does the wiktionary page actually say anything useful in regards to OP’s question? I didn’t see anything in the Japanese section explaining the different look depending on font or mentioning anything about handwriting.

By ‘small dash’, are we referring to the little dot that appears at the top in most computer fonts i.e. something like 、 , as in 言 with a Chinese font? Or are we referring to a little horizontal line? (In which case I don’t see the difference between the two at all.)

In both traditional typesetting and modern usage, the word “font” refers to the delivery mechanism of the typeface design. In traditional typesetting, the font would be made from metal or wood. Today, the font is a digital file.

From my understanding of this quote a font is only related the style of letters or characters when used with some sort of analog or digital typewriter. I.e not when written by hand. I’m assuming that OP is referring to their teachers’ writing, and thus distinguishing the different styles as “fonts” would be incorrect.

EDIT: Source

This is what is being referred to:

In traditional/simplified Chinese and Vietnamese, the top component is written . In written Japanese, the top component may be written either , or (small vertical stroke).

Check the above wiktionary link for a more thorough explanation.

It’s interesting to know the technical definition of a font, though there are also “handwritten fonts” (as in, typesetting meant to resemble handwriting), so the distinction may not matter as much in the computer age.

In any case, the answer to OP’s question is that they are the same kanji but that its look varies slightly depending on whether it’s written by hand or not. When handwritten it should look one way as you said; when shown digitally or printed it can look either way.


Ok, thanks. I would say then that ‘dash’ is the wrong word, because to me, a dash is always strictly horizontal. That’s the reason I was confused. I’m aware of the existence of different forms.

@Jasii97 No, they’re the same character. The character appears differently in Chinese and Japanese fonts (printed), as the Wiktionary link mentions, and the version with what you call a ‘short dash’, which I call a diagonal dot/short diagonal stroke is what is standard in Chinese. That’s how I learnt it in school as a Chinese speaker. In Japanese, the standard 明朝体(みんちょうたい= Ming Dynasty form/script)uses a fairly long horizontal stroke, but in practice, handwriting in Japanese takes on multiple forms that are all considered acceptable. I suggest that you take a look at the official 常用漢字表(じょうようかんじひょう – List of Commonly Used Kanji)from the Japanese government here:

Start at page 7. There are samples of different handwritten forms that match a particular standard Ming Dynasty character. I doubt the list of handwritten forms is exhaustive, but it should give you a good idea of how varied handwriting can be.

Not quite. The jōyō kanji document shows that both forms are acceptable in handwriting, unless I’ve misunderstood the explanatory text. (It’s been a while, so I don’t remember exactly what was written.)

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Nothing is ever simple in language, huh? :slight_smile:

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Yup. Honestly, I expected Japan’s education/culture ministry to be much more assertive and simply fix one or two forms per kanji as standard forms. That’s what it’s like in Chinese, barring some minor typographical variations like the shapes of ‘hooked’ strokes. Even relative stroke length is quite fixed, whereas in Japanese, it’s ok to vary such things. However… maybe that’s just how I was taught in school. Once you start accounting for different calligraphic forms, you realise there’s a lot more variation.

What surprises me though, is stuff like this:

In Chinese, the rightmost form for each kanji/radical is roughly what the 行書 form looks like. In school, at least for me in Singapore, there’s no way the second form would have been taught as a standard, acceptable form. It would probably only be allowed to appear if someone was writing 行書, and the little ‘hook’ would only appear as the result of someone writing quickly (i.e. it’s just the pen trailing on the surface of the page, on the way to the next stroke). It’s not an innate part of the character, and wouldn’t be recorded as such. I’m just kinda impressed that in Japan, it seems like that sort of writing is common enough that it gets recorded in a document like this, written as though it’s 楷書 (i.e. standard, unjoined script), with that ‘hook’ treated as an actual part of the handwritten character.

The passage you quoted appears to discuss the usage of the term font as it applies to “typesetting”, both traditional and modern. The previous paragraph in the Wikipedia article is more relevant to this discussion

In modern usage, with the advent of digital typography, “font” is frequently synonymous with “typeface”. Each style is in a separate “font file”—for instance, the typeface “Bulmer” may include the fonts “Bulmer roman”, “Bulmer”, “Bulmer bold” and “Bulmer extended”—but the term “font” might be applied either to one of these alone or to the whole typeface.

So typeface is the more appropriate term to nitpick over as it pertains to the design of the lettering. A typeface combined with a style like regular or semi-bold, is what characterizes a font.

Whether it is delivered by hand or by machine, its the lettering, i.e. typeface, i.e. font that @seanblue is referring to and wouldn’t most readers take that for granted even if we aren’t familiar enough with the jargon to articulate it?

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First of all: Thank you everyone for your replies!
I knew that handwriting can be very different but what confused me was that is was also printed differently.

Now I understood that it’s the same character :slight_smile:


Could just be the font in their textbook or something, which are typically made to look handwritten.

Either way, both ways of writing it are acceptable on Kanken, so either could be handwriting.

I loved how fast this comment section devolved into who can be the most right spanning into paragraphs of caveats getting more and more specific after each post. When in actuality the question was quite simple and the seven word solution you provided was much easier to understand then any of the following responses.


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